GAY OLD TOWN
And then, of course, there's Bilbao's lovely little and highly local gay scene
itself, mainly centred in the Old Town and the aptly-named San Francisco district
just across the river and wrapped around the main train station. By no means everyone
will speak English - or Spanish - so enjoy utterly losing yourself in a warren of
intimate venues where even the music is largely native, move over Madonna!
Starting in the narrow streets of the old Casco Viejo, gain your strength at gay-friendly,
slate-clad Kasko on Calle Santa Maria, offering classy set menus featuring local fodder
for around £15 a head, including wine - although you can get good grub elsewhere for
half that price. You might want to return here later, after hours when this posh eatery
transforms into a highly respected and gay-frequented dance club.
Then stroll around the corner to the buzzing, wood-beamed Café Bizitza on Calle Torre,
a daytime and late-night café-pub with mixed but gay-slanted crowd, both boys and
girls. Note: hardly any gay venues in town have a public phone number - many open
so late and play music so loud, what's the point?
Next, pop around the block to the sprawling Café Lamiak on Calle Pelota - a mixed,
two-floor café with a mildly intellectual air or dumb-down a few doors along at the
male-dominated Séptimo Cielo, a small but swish music bar where the boys get frantic.
Then, as the night deepens, cross over the river south to the friendly weekend cabaret bar
Badulake on Calle Hernani; or check out manly Mykonos around the corner - to reach
the video lounge around the back you'll need to squeeze past an entire bar's-length
of horny, leering, groping punters, beyond the little cabaret stage where said drunken
patrons perform impromptu shows to great applause.
Nearby New High on Calle Naja is a popular, medium-sized, brightly-lit joint,
likewise catering to a mostly male crowd with a typically wide age range - as you
find in many a "local" scene. Indigenous music is played in the main room, and
there's a small scarce-used dance floor around the back: this is usually a "pit-stop"
when gay men go out for the evening, so they save their jiving until later. Upstairs,
you'll find a small adult movie theatre with rows of couches plus a small but active darkroom.
Around the corner from High, Heaven is often the next stop in a gay night out. The
music is louder, the crowd (very slightly) younger and there are next to no women -
at best, boys in drag. In the room behind the main bar, there's a small dance area
with seats next to screens showing porn. And in the rear of the bar is a cavernous
maze for cruising - but watch your step since it's pitch black and there could be
anything lurking in here, as you'll doubtless discover to your cost in the half-light
near doorway on exit.
Heaven stays busy into the wee small hours and - since there aren't really any
exclusively gay discos in Bilbao - guys who want to move it generally end up dancing
the night away here. Other options include trendy but expensive mixed clubs like
Conjunto Vacio a few meters away and busy after 2am; or - ten minute walk beyond
the station - there's Congresso or house club Distrito 9.
The most reliable and popular sauna in town is Ego, located in a complex off Plaza
de Zabalburu, in a seedy - though hardly dangerous - neighbourhood just south of
the main station. Ego is clean and well maintained with a sauna, steam room and
plunge pool, plus a maze of private cabins, some showing porn. Guys also chat and
relax in towels around the TV and bar area out front or in the small porn room out
back. Busiest at evenings mid- week (until 11 pm) or from late afternoon onwards come weekends.
Ego is actually located in something like an adult entertainment complex called the
Galeria Zabalburu, with several other sex venues. The most interesting of these for gay men
is the American Sex Shop right next to the sauna, with porn-for-sale out front and rows
of cruisy coin-slot viewing booths to the rear - easy to pull if you lose out in the
sauna. Or failing that, the gents on Platform 8 of the main station nearby are a dead cert
all round the clock, if you hang around on the benches outside for long enough. And there's
always Plaza Venezuela a little north for one last bid as darkness falls.
Easyjet and British Airways
fly direct from the UK to Bilbao and you can also go by ferry from Portsmouth. For gay-friendly hotels
at special rates book online with out hotel partners
THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
American Sex Shop (Nicolas Acorta 7; no phone)
Badulake (Calle Hernani 10; no phone)
Café Bizitza (Calle Torre 1; no phone)
Congresso (Muelle de Uribitarte 4; no phone)
Conjunto Vacio (Calle Muelle de la Mercad; no phone)
Distrito 9 (Alameda Rekalde 18; no phone)
Heaven (Calle Dos de Mayo 4; no phone)
Kasko (Calle Santa Maria 16; T: 0034 94 410 6231)
Café Lamiak (Calle Pelota 8; no phone)
Mykonos (Calle General Castillo 4; no phone)
New High (Calle Naja 5; no phone)
Séptimo Cielo (Calle Pelota 4; T: 0034 94 790 082)
Ego (Nicolas Acorta 3; T: 0034 94 470 0777)
Revised January 2015.